Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 12, 2010

SENATE PROSPECTS FOR NEW START.... For many years, support for U.S. nuclear arms treaties has been overwhelming and bipartisan, especially in the Senate. The INF Treaty of 1988 was ratified on a 93-to-5 vote. The 1992 vote on START was 93 to 6. The SORT Treaty's vote in 2003 was a unanimous 95-to-0 vote.

With this history in mind, ratifying the New START, negotiated by Presidents Obama and Medvedev, should, in theory, be a fairly straightforward exercise. Republican Sen. Dick Lugar (Ind.), the ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has already endorsed the treaty and urged his colleagues to support it. New START has drawn praise from officials in the Bush/Cheney administration, and received support from Republican notables like Henry Kissinger and George Shultz

But with our current political culture, nothing is ever easy.

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) said the administration may have problems getting the START treaty signed last week ratified in the Senate.

Lieberman said he'd arrived at his belief on the vote tally falling short after conversations with colleagues over the congressional recess.

"I don't believe that there will be 67 votes to ratify the START treaty unless the administration does two things," Liberman said on "Fox News Sunday." "First, commit to modernize our nuclear stockpile so as we have less nuclear weapons we know they're capable, if, God forbid, we need them; and secondly, to make absolutely clear that some of the statements by Russian President Medvedev at the signing in Prague that seem to suggest that if we continue to build the ballistic missile defense in Europe that they may pull out of this treaty -- they're just unacceptable to us.

"We need that defense to protect our allies and ourselves from Iran," Lieberman said.... Lieberman stressed that as stockpiles are slashed, "we have to make darn sure that our nuclear warheads are capable, are modern. And a lot of them are decades old."

On the same program, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) endorsed Lieberman's concerns. Roll Call reported today, "Senate Republicans say they are willing to block ratification of the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty that President Barack Obama signed with Russia unless the administration follows through with key policy concessions."

Of course, if Lieberman and Republicans are principally concerned with modernizing the existing U.S. nuclear arsenal, they're preaching to the choir, since the Obama administration has already endorsed doing exactly that.

But as Max Bergmann explained, that's not really what's going on here: "[W]hat Lieberman is really saying is that he agrees with those on the far right that want to needlessly build new nuclear weapons, nearly two decades years after the end of the Cold War. The far right insists that the U.S. is falling behind because it is not building new nuclear weapons and that our existing nuclear arsenal is deteriorating. This is a myth and demonstrates a complete, if not willful, ignorance of our approach to maintaining our nuclear weapons.... Lieberman is therefore willing to vote against a treaty -- something that would have dire consequences for the US-Russia relationship, our mission in Afghanistan, and the entire nuclear non-proliferation regime -- in order to symbolically demonstrate his support for the far-right's dangerous nuclear agenda."

It takes 67 votes to ratify a treaty. The White House would like to try to complete work on New START by August.

Steve Benen 9:20 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (26)

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"we have to make darn sure that our nuclear warheads are capable, are modern. And a lot of them are decades old."


We have to make sure that our heads are capable, are modern. And a lot of them are decades old.

There, fixed it forya old man. Now go away.

Posted by: flyonthewall on April 12, 2010 at 9:21 AM | PERMALINK

Manufacturing nuclear weapons is an expensive operation.

Inquiring minds ask: Who gets the money? Hmmmm?

Posted by: DAY on April 12, 2010 at 9:26 AM | PERMALINK

Shorter Lieberman: an arms reduction treaty should be the beginning of a new arms race.

Posted by: martin on April 12, 2010 at 9:33 AM | PERMALINK

What he is really saying: "This evidences Obama's lack of commitment to Israel's defense."

Glad I could be of assistance.

orange.

Posted by: eric on April 12, 2010 at 9:35 AM | PERMALINK

Obama could hire Edward Teller to develop a new generation of nuclear weapons, appoint Dr. Strangelove as Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and annoint Sarah "Putin Flew Over My House" Palin as Nuclear Policy Czar, and the republicans would STILL oppose the treaty.

Posted by: Eeyore on April 12, 2010 at 9:38 AM | PERMALINK

Shorter Lieberman et al:

"Only pussies think the capability to wipe out humanity 10 times over is enough!"

Posted by: Gummo on April 12, 2010 at 9:49 AM | PERMALINK

I see disaster in the future. Nuclear proliferation can only lead to the end of us all. Like Einstein said, "the fourth world war will be fought with rocks." Meanwhile the world is stuck on nonsense like this: http://lawblog.legalmatch.com/2010/04/07/the-dark-horses-of-criminal-prosecution/

Posted by: Morgan on April 12, 2010 at 9:59 AM | PERMALINK

To be the president of the U.S. you should be smart or at least educated, unless you're Barrack Obama.

The president is presumed to be an American citizen, unless you're Barrack Obama.


The president's Supreme Court nominees will get an up or down vote, unless you're Barrack Obama.

The preisdent is defered to in matters of foreign policy, unless you're Barrack Obama

The president's negotiated nuclear non-proliferation treaties will be ratified, unless you're Barrack Obama.

The is presumed to be an American patriot, unless you're Barrack Obama.

The more I look at Obama's presidency, the more I see something fundamental in the way he is being treated.

The rules are being changed in the middle of the game.


Posted by: Winkandanod on April 12, 2010 at 10:00 AM | PERMALINK

Now the moronic backstabbing scumbag Lieberman is going out of his way to undermine the president's arms reduction treaty.
But still not enough to get him kicked out of the Democratic caucus.

Posted by: Allan Snyder on April 12, 2010 at 10:08 AM | PERMALINK

Lieberman is therefore willing to vote against a treaty ... in order to symbolically demonstrate his support for the far-right's dangerous nuclear agenda."

Is there anyone on the planet who deserves to be punched in the face harder?

Posted by: electrolite on April 12, 2010 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

Hey winkandnod: You could begin to help change that treatment by the simple practice of spelling the President's name correctly. Jesus.

Posted by: cr on April 12, 2010 at 10:16 AM | PERMALINK

As someone who has been a long-timey agitator (marches on Washington,etc.) against the use of nuclear weapons, I know this is a bipartisan issue and that the right leader could put together a march on Washington to bolster support for START.

In any event, I think the Senate needs a visit from the people it so willingly ignores just as much as we-the-people need to force these issues.

Posted by: pw on April 12, 2010 at 10:19 AM | PERMALINK

Lee-burr[up-his-butt]-wench is blowing smoke; he needs to keep everyone off the scent concerning Israel's "undeclared" stockpile of nukes. Hopefully, someone will "mention those" when they start talking up the alleged Iranian threat at the nuke-confab later today....

Posted by: S. Waybright on April 12, 2010 at 10:30 AM | PERMALINK

The difference, of course, is that all of those treaties were negotiated and signed by Republican presidents. It's assumed that Democratic presidents only sign treaties so they can weaken US defenses, on purpose.

Posted by: Basilisc on April 12, 2010 at 10:32 AM | PERMALINK

electrolite: i've long said that various senators have specialties. orren hatch, for example, is the smarmiest; ben nelson may well be the dumbest; mitch mcconnell is the sleaziest.

joe lieberman is the senator you most want to punch in the nose.

Posted by: howard on April 12, 2010 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

Do these idiots even understand how much damage rejecting or even seriously fighting against this treaty will do international security?

Thanks to Bush's buggling the Non-Proliferation Treaty is all but dead in the water. Getting Russian, France, China and other nuclear states to hold up the sanction aspect of the treaty is critical to giving the NPT back its teeth. But the only way they are going to get back on board is if they see meaningful real negotiations and follow through from the US. START is s key part of shifting nuclear policy worldwide.

If the Senate kills this treaty, then the world can kiss any chance of a real non-proliferation regime taking hold. The signal they will send is, get your bomb and get it fast because that's the only way to keep yourself safe from the US.

Posted by: thorin-1 on April 12, 2010 at 11:13 AM | PERMALINK

Steve, the Republicans want to "modernize the nuclear arsenal", while the Nuclear Posture Review commits to modernizing the nuclear infrastructure "in order to sustain the nuclear arsenal." Emphasis mine.

Big difference. The Republicans want new nuclear weapons, which the NPR explicitly eschews.

Posted by: Cheryl Rofer on April 12, 2010 at 11:37 AM | PERMALINK

What the Republicans want are TACTICAL nukes. 'Smaller' and 'less lethal' nukes for going after bunkers in Iran and North Korea. These people actually want a nuclear arsenal with the stated purpose of being available as a standard battlefield weapon available to theatre commanders. It's utterly insane.

There are days when I honestly believe the goal of Republican foreign policy is to hasten the coming of Armagedon so they can all go to heaven and pal around with Jesus.

Posted by: thorin-1 on April 12, 2010 at 11:43 AM | PERMALINK

Lieberman is therefore willing to vote against a treaty -- something that would have dire consequences for the US-Russia relationship, our mission in Afghanistan, and the entire nuclear non-proliferation regime -- in order to symbolically demonstrate his support for the far-right's dangerous nuclear agenda.

We must also take into account the fact that Joe Lieberman is a total dick.

Posted by: David Bailey on April 12, 2010 at 12:03 PM | PERMALINK

I wouldn't get my panties in a twist about the START treaty not being signed by August. START I was not ratified for over a year, START II took 3 years to be ratified.

http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/library/report/crs/94-054.htm

Posted by: karen marie on April 12, 2010 at 12:04 PM | PERMALINK

"We need that [ballistic missile] defense to protect our allies and ourselves from Iran," Lieberman said...

In a civilized nation, the person recording this would stop and ask "Why?"

Posted by: have clue -- will travel on April 12, 2010 at 12:13 PM | PERMALINK

First - haven't seen "orange" in a while. Excellent!

Second - re Lieberman, I wish Harry Reid had the backbone to tell old Joe that if he wants to stay with the Dem caucus that he needs to stop blowing up the party line.

Again, he doesn't have to vote the party line, he just can't blow it up.

I can't imagine the politics of that scenario work in his benefit over the coming year or when he's up for reelection.

orange

Posted by: Homer on April 12, 2010 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

Cheryl Rofer: "The Republicans want new nuclear weapons"

thorin-1: "What the Republicans want are TACTICAL nukes"

You give them WAAAYY too much credit. They want Obama to be seen as weak; and they want him to be seen as having been forced to make 'concessions' of some, or any, kind in order to get the treaty approved. That's all there is: it's not about the policy, it's about the optics.

Posted by: tw on April 12, 2010 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

Well, at least Lieberman's with us on everything else. Except the war, of course. And health care reform. And ... gee, wait a minute: What is he "with us" on?

Harry?

Anyone?

Bueller?

Posted by: Fleas correct the era on April 12, 2010 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK

I've never understood what Obama is thinking trying to get this ratified by the U.S. Senate!

1. It will NEVER be ratified. Just the fact that Obama negotiated it will prevent at least 33 Republicans from voting for it, NO MATTER WHAT IS IN THE TREATY! Period.

2. Treaties officially DON'T MAKE A DIFFERENCE! Since Bush officially "abandoned" the ABM treaty in 2001, the status of treaties as "binding law of the land" has been abandoned.

Any President now can unilaterally make and abandon treaties with any foreign power. Obama can simply declare that the agreement is a NON-BINDING "Executive Agreement" that is NOT submitted to Congress for approval.

The next Administration -- Democrat or Republican will then have to decide whether to abide by the "treaty" or not.

Just as they do now! IF Bush can unilaterally cancel a treaty simply by declaring it null and void, (it isn't stated in the Constitution how a treaty is to be abrogated or exactly what constitutes a "treaty"), then so can any future President. And it doesn't matter whether it's an official "treaty" passed by Congress with 67 votes, or a simple Executive Agreement never submitted to Congress at all.

In short, Bush's power grab simply eliminated the "treaty making" provision of the U.S. Constitution.

And this was a culmination of a LONG list of "executive agreements" by which post WWII Presidents have stolen power from Congress -- and there is effectively NO recourse, except for Congress to explicitly deny appropriating money for treaty enforcement.

But, even that won't stop a future Bush from declaring that such limitations on how the executive spends funds is "an unconstitutional limitation on the President's authority."

Thus. the only REAL power the Congress has to enforce it's will over the President is impeachment -- and that takes (guess what?) a 2/3 vote of the Senate!

Exactly what treaty enactment takes! So there's NO effective way that Congress can enforce it's will here and Obama is better off NOT giving Republicans a chance to give him a political defeat by shooting down this treaty!

He's still stuck in his idiot "bi-partisanville" where some idea is "good for the country" so Republicans OUGHT to "do the right thing" and support it.

And he seems endlessly surprised when Lucy pulls away the football again!

Posted by: Cugel on April 12, 2010 at 3:42 PM | PERMALINK

All Obama has to do is tell Lieberman that Israel has to fess up how many nukes they have or he'll call them out over their refusal to sign the NPT... unless Lieberman goes AWAY!

Posted by: Mike on April 13, 2010 at 2:10 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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